A Comparison of Carbon Calculators


International attention to carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) is turning to an individual’s contribution, or “carbon footprint.” Calculators that estimate an individual’s CO2 emissions have become more prevalent on the Internet. Even with similar inputs, however, these calculators can generate varying results, often by as much as several metric tons per annum per individual activity.

This paper, from researchers at University of Washington and Vanderbilt University, examines the similarities and differences among 10 US-based calculators. Overall, the calculators lack consistency, especially for estimates of CO2 emissions from household electricity consumption. In addition, most calculators lack information about their methods and estimates, which impedes comparison and validation. Although carbon calculators can promote public awareness of carbon emissions from individual behavior, this paper reveals the need for improved consistency and transparency in the calculators.

Web Site: www.engr.washington.edu

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